October 25, 2010
Vibrations Slow Bone Aging?

Shake away those aged aching bones?

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A daily dose of whole body vibration may help reduce the usual bone density loss that occurs with age, Medical College of Georgia researchers report.

Twelve weeks of daily, 30-minute sessions in 18-month old male mice which equate to 55- to 65-year-old humans appear to forestall the expected annual loss that can result in fractures, disability and death. Dr. Karl H. Wenger, biomedical engineer in the MCG Schools of Graduate Studies and Medicine, reported the findings with his colleagues in the journal Bone.

Researchers found vibration improved density around the hip joint with a shift toward higher density in the femur, the long bone of the leg, as well. Hip fractures are a major cause of disability and death among the elderly.

They also found a reduction in a biomarker that indicates bone breakdown and an increase in the surface area involved in bone formation in the vibrating group.

Remember those vibration machines that fat people using to try to shake off the weight back in the 1960s or 1970s? I have only very faded recollections of what those belted vibrator machines were used for. Weight loss? Muscle toning? Well, maybe machines like them will make your bones stay stronger longer.

So I went poking around looking for those body vibration machines of yesteryear with the leather belts that wrap around your body and shake it. Couldn't find any of those kind. But I did find body vibration machines that appear to work from your feet up. They are touted for weight loss and massage. No mention of slowed bone aging. But that might be their biggest real benefit.

The vibrations are thought to stimulate activity by bone-building osteoblasts.

The findings provide more scientific evidence that the technique, which dates back to the 1800s and is now showing up in homes, gyms and rehabilitation clinics, has bone benefit, particularly as a low-risk option for injured individuals with limited mobility, Wenger said.

The scientists theorize that the rhythmic movement, which produces a sensation similar to that of a vibrating cell phone but on a larger scale, exercises cells so they work better. Vibration prompts movement of the cell nucleus, which is suspended by numerous threadlike fibers called filaments. "The filaments get all deformed like springs and then they spring back," Wenger said.

All the movement releases transcription factors that spur new osteoblasts, the cells that make bone. With age, the balance of bone production and destruction by osteoclasts tips to the loss side.

I like the idea that vibrations will help because it is such a lazy treatment. This report also claims vibrations really do help with weight loss and muscle strength. Who knew?

Update: A thought occurs to me: Motorcycles, ATVs, and other vehicles that have higher levels of vibrations could actually be good for you, Off-road driving in vehicles which do not much dampen the effects of uneven terrain could deliver real benefit to your bones.

Update II: Mthson reminds me of my October 2007 post: Vibrated Mice Form More Bone And Less Fat. Want your office chair to vibrate?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 25 10:33 PM  Aging Bones Joints Studies

ASPIRANT said at October 26, 2010 7:04 AM:

I remember reading something about this a couple years ago. I'll see if I can dig it up, but their conclusion was that the vibration they were using mimicked the vibration of the muscles when they're in tension. The theory was that it was a signal to the bone cells that the muscles were working harder, and therefore more effort should be expended on reinforcing the bone.

Wish I could remember where I read that... I remember that they had people stand on these vibrating platforms.

Mthson said at October 26, 2010 8:20 AM:

Aspirant, I remember that as well.

"Vibrated Mice Form More Bone And Less Fat
October 30, 2007

john personna said at October 26, 2010 10:18 AM:

Downhilling on a mountain bike(*). I'm surprised that you call out the gasoline fueled options instead. They don't give you those good endurance chemicals on the climbs.

* - heh, maybe an ad campaigns for rigids.

Basil Ransom said at October 26, 2010 11:40 AM:

I have an elderly friend who has a device like this. It is rather like a treadmill, with a panel in front of you at about waist level, and handlebars in front and on the sides. Instead of a long track, there is a platform big enough for one person to stand on. You select the desired intensity of vibration, and then contract your muscles to absorb the vibration. Like strength training, that is supposed to boost bone density. He said it was originally developed for astronauts who suffered from bone loss while in space. The vibrations can be very strong. My friend uses it every day, in addition to other exercises, and looks pretty spry for his age, (late 70s I believe).

kurt9 said at October 26, 2010 12:36 PM:

Its been known since the late 80's that resistive weight training (AKA bodybuilding workout) not only prevents bone loss, but actually increases bone density and strength.

Randall Parker said at October 26, 2010 11:44 PM:


Thanks for remembering that. I had forgotten writing that post.

John Personna,

Regards downhill bikers: As a hiker I do not want to encourage people to force me off the trail as they come down nearby mountain paths at high speeds.

Also, most people do not live near mountain trails. So I focused on activities with wider accessibility.

Phillep Harding said at October 27, 2010 4:09 PM:

Hmmm. "Mount a super thumper speaker under the La-Z-Boy, turn up the bass, and get a workout while swilling beer"?

Naw, I hate that sort of stereo.

Rich said at October 28, 2010 11:47 AM:

My daughter not long ago read that a cat purring in your lap helps reduce bone loss and in fact can promote an increase in bone density.

West said at October 28, 2010 1:08 PM:

I ride a motorcycle. All that fun and bone therepy too!

Jonathan Silber said at October 28, 2010 1:17 PM:

I did this vibration therapy as recommended and now I feel great!
but inexplicably I've developed an insatiable yearning for cheese.

Tedd said at October 28, 2010 2:01 PM:

1960s and 1970s? Those machines were old-fashioned even then. Looking at the style and construction of one machine (photo here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mountsutro/4134765870/) I would say it goes back at least to the 1940s, and that may not be the oldest style. They probably date to at least the 1930s.

Roderick Reilly said at October 28, 2010 3:55 PM:

This is not news. Not at all, so I'm puzzled. NASA studeid this in the 80's, and I helped sell vibration machines some years back. It has been known for years that vibration training may help increase/maintain bone density.

Madeleine said at October 28, 2010 4:59 PM:

My chiropractor has this vibration platform as part of his therapy--I started having the full vibration for 10 minutes three times a week to relieve my low back pain--It was very very helpful! and I am hoping it reverses my decreasing bone density too.

Obdurate said at October 28, 2010 5:04 PM:

Here's an article from Scientific American on the topic from 2006, referencing the healing power of a cat's purring:

Nerissa said at November 1, 2010 5:58 PM:

I hypothesized that hot sex would help bone via vibration a few years ago:


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